NYC’s Campaign of Shame: The Issue of Teen Pregnancy

by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

Although New York City has seen a 27-percent reduction in teen pregnancies over the last decade, in March 2013 New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a series of controversial anti-teen pregnancy advertisements as part of his “real cost of teen pregnancy” campaign.  Run on subways, buses, and social media platforms, the ads have drawn criticisms for their blunt tactics.

The ads are “problematic to young women of color and young mothers of color,” says the lead organizer for NYC for Reproductive Justice.  A representative for Planned Parenthood of New York criticized the tone and underlying assumption of the campaign. “Fear-based messages just don’t work in teen pregnancy prevention strategies,” Haydee Morales says. “[And these] ads are saying—falsely—that teen pregnancy is going to make you poor and keep you poor, but we know that poverty keeps you poor.”  The executive director of the Brooklyn Young Mothers’ Collective noted that “condescension never works” and that “the support networks [teenagers] need are their families and their schools. What they don’t need is to be judged or to consider themselves failures.”

The controversial ads received some coverage in an editorial published in the Wall Street JournalJames Taranto argues that the ad campaign’s focus on “teen pregnancy” rather than illegitimacy illustrates a class bias.



“New York City Tries to Shame its Teens into Not Having Babies,” King Jamilah, ColorLines, March 6, 2013,

“The Limits of Moral Suasion; Mayor Bloomberg tries to follow Charles Murray’s advice,” Taranto James, Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2013,

Student Researcher: Sarah Levin, College of Marin

Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth, College of Marin